Arguably the worst kept secret in Pro Hockey, the next cash grab/attempt at luring the casual fan/placating the East Coast/Winter Classic will be heading to The Motor City, where Detroit and Toronto will likely wear nostalgia based jerseys that result in one giant trip down memory lane and right toward the cash registers and checkout pages at NHL.com. Nevermind the rampant capitalism, well wait- the game will be held at The Big House in Ann Arbor, where they'll likely try and jam a quarter of a million drunken Leafs fans, Red Wings Conspiracy Theorists, and media types into one condensed space. Oh ya, did I mention that they'll lift the booze ban too?
In the realm of contrived spectacles for the sake of New Year's Day television programming, I mean promoting the game, this will undoubtedly be the biggest.
But what makes the whole spiel for me is not what will take place in and around Michigan Stadium- it will be the celebration of hockey up the road in downtown Detroit at Comerica Park, where soon Prince Fielder will be causing minor aftershocks as he trots around the base paths after he sends a Scott Baker meat ball soaring toward Alpena.
Comerica will host what is being billed as the "Hockeytown Winter Festival", a take off of the wonderfully crafted marketing slogan that belies the shoddy attendance a perennially dominant NHL team draws at the aging Joe Louis Arena. The baseball field/batting practice zone-now-hockey facility will play host to an NHL Alumni Game between Toronto and Detroit (I want to see Rick Zombo and Aki Berg, dammit!), an American League game between affiliate teams Grand Rapids and Toronto, A doubleheader of Ontario Hockey League action featuring 4 teams located in the greater Detroit Area (Saginaw, Plymouth, Windsor, and London), NCAA games in the form of the relocated Great Lakes Invitational, and some Michigan High School games.
You brain wizards at the Minnesota Wild corporate offices and Fox Sports North jotting this down?
"Hockey Day in Minnesota" took place when I was out of town on a USHL road trip, so basically the coverage I got came in the form of tweets and exchanging test messages with Nate Wells. We talked about a number of things, how the whole experience could be or should be, and just let it go by the wayside as the days went by since.
Detroit, the host city for the 2013 Winter Classic, absolutely NAILED the concept that Minnesota/FSN/whoever should adopt. HDIM does a great job of providing hockey coverage all day; but isn't necessarily as wide ranging as it should be. Sure, a marquee matinee matchup between four of Minnesota High School Hockey's elite makes for great theater (and admittedly some of the mustard came off of the hot dog when unseasonably warm and completely welcome weather forced Minnetonka and Duluth East off of Tonka Bay and into the rink) but there's more to just boy's high school hockey, Minnesota Golden Gopher Men's Hockey, and the Minnesota Wild.
While two completely different events, I think the message should be the same; hockey in Minnesota extends beyond the aforementioned. There's girl's hockey at the High School and Collegiate level, there's four other Division I teams in Minnesota, and then there are two North American Hockey League teams in Minnesota too- Austin and Alexandria. The NAHL would LOVE that sort of exposure.
So why couldn't these aspects, along with the advent of FSN+, all get face time?
Ideally with The Winter Classic you'd have a rink at Target Field for the Main Event, but you could have a rink at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota Campus where games of all levels could be played. Did I mention that The Schwan Cup, one of the premier High School Hockey tournaments in Minnesota, is played the week leading up to New Years? Why not have the Championship games for all of the levels be played outside at The Bank? How's that for incentive? Or the much-speculated "Hotdish" tournament, featuring all of the Minnesota NCAA schools? Don't think that wouldn't be a gas for the Bemidjis, The Mankatos, The Duluths to participate in? It would create a draw, something people would not just want to watch, but to experience.
So put the Winter Classic monkeyshines off for a second; even for HDIM, FSN has a whole other channel/feed at its disposal, which would allow for another block of hockey programming, which could essentially create a situation where people could literally flip back and forth and just catch game after game after game.
I know I'm probably all over the place on this- talking two different events, two different time frames, two different set ups; but the point remains that there is real potential for a massive Minnesota Hockey Celebration in both cases.